Is Halloween Gay Christmas?
PRIDE
PRIDE

Episode · 1 month ago

Is Halloween Gay Christmas?

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

It’s Spooky Season, Pride listeners! Have you ever heard someone call Halloween Gay Christmas? 

To help us explore the very queer origins of Halloween, we’ll spend some time with two experts in the realm of queer history: Michael Bronski and Marc Stein. We’ll look at what exactly it is about Halloween that makes it feel like Gay Christmas and what some of those Halloween celebrations looked like in the middle of the 20th century, specifically in Philadelphia. We’ll also hear from the one and only Tammie Brown, whose Halloween Spectacular is out now on Out TV, about her own experiences with Halloween as a drag queen. And finally, we’ll look at how Halloween can remind us of our power and serve as a tool for activism.

Tammie Brown’s Halloween Spooktacular is out now on OUTtv.com and on AppleTV+ via the OUTtv Channel until October 31st. Watch it here and follow Tammie on Instagram

Read Michael Bronski's book, A Queer History of the United States.

Read more from Marc Stein on his faculty page

Your host is Levi Chambers, founder of Rainbo Media Co. You can follow Levi @levichambers across socials.

Follow the show and keep up with the conversation @PRIDE across socials.

PRIDE is produced by Levi Chambers, Maggie Boles, Ryan Tillotson, and Brandon Marlo. It's written by Maggie Boles and edited by Daniel Ferrera.

Have an interesting LGBTQ+ story to share? Email us at pride@strawhutmedia.com

*This podcast is not affiliated with Pride Media.

Straw Hot Media pumpkin blaster. You know the master, do it? Do it? Do it to me? So how at moon? How you make me swoon? Who something like that? Yeah? Yes, I mean I feel like that is a Halloween ebop? What like waiting to happen? It's spooky season and we're so glad you're back with us. For this very special Halloween episode of Pride, we took a little bit of time off to reflect on what this show means to us and how it can be entertaining, inspiring, and educational for you. If you have feedback about the kinds of stories you'd like to hear more of, please send us an email at Pride at straw Hunt Media dot com. Let's start off with one of my favorite holidays of the Halloween. To help us explore the very queer origins of Halloween, will spend some time with two experts in the realm of queer history, Michael Bronsky and Mark Stein. Will look what exactly it is about Halloween that makes it feel like gay Christmas and what some of those Halloween celebrations looked like in the middle of the twentieth century. We'll also hear from the one and only Tammy Brown, whose Halloween Spectacular is out now on out TV, about her own experiences with Halloween as a drag queen. And finally, we'll look at how Halloween can remind us of our power and serve as a tool for activism. Fine, Levi Chambers, and this is pride. I think the first time I had ever heard of Halloween consciously as a queer holiday was probably in the late sixties, when somebody told me that Halloween in the nineteen fifties, a decade before this was called the homosexual or the gay holiday because it was the only day of the year where you could actually dressed in drag and not be arrested. Right because people probably know they were, Almost every state head laws the against cross dressing in various ways. This is Michael Bronski. He's a professor of the Practice in Media and Activism in Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University. And I'm quick to point out that I am the least likely person to be working at Harvard UM. I do not have a PHDUM, I didn't have root set foot in a classroom, could teach until it was fifty years of age. Michael May say that, but he's been at Harvard for fifteen years. He's an expert in his field, and he's published a lot of books on the history of queer culture in the US, including A Queer History of the United States, which is a must read. Most of my writing for all those decades was actually as a as a cultural critic, so I'm not trained as a historian, but I do have a vast knowledge of movies, plays, theater, books and popular stuff, right. So so in fact, Halloween fits right into that since it's not really an academic topic yet. Of course, there is a big connection between Halloween and drag, and we'll get more into that later in today's episode. But Michael says the origins of Halloween as a queer holiday go deeper than drag. I think that there is a anarchistic essence to Halloween, right, which is that because theologically right, Halloween is the evil all things to day and in Christian theology, right, it's a time for for thinking about death. It's a time for um living in that where I never hardly ever used liminal world between life and death, a sort of shadow world. And it's also is a way of celebrating life by knowing that death is around the corner. It's a little dark. But for lgbt Q plus folks, just being alive has been historically dangerous, whether it's in Florida now, or whether it's in the Middle Ages with the burning of witches and end of gay men, or whether it's in the nineteen fifties. That in fact, um gay life is...

...always on the precipice of celebrating life and knowing death is a relic corner. So I think I think that the roots are Halloween and the sort of celebration of it are profoundly queer. In addition to that carpet d M aspect of Halloween, there's also the whole idea of turning polite society on its head, and that's pretty queer. And I think it actually connects with a set of topics that historians have been fascinated by for decades, and that is these cultural events or moments or episodes. They often go under the term car the carnivalesque, where the social order is disrupted or overturned, or everything is turned upside down. This is Mark Stein. He's a professor of history at San Francisco State University. He and Michael Bronsky actually know each other from when they both work together at the Gay Community News in the eighties. Michael, at that point was a senior U journalist, senior UM features writer at the paper, one of the people who had been around for a long long time. And he really mentored me at Gay Community News. Uh. And you know, as someone who was deeply rooted in a queer community in Boston but was also a scholar, a writer, an expert in multiple aspects of of the history of gender and sexuality and popular culture. Um. You know, the relationship was really great for me. And you know that that period for me really shaped the kind of historian than I am, because I entered the field of history with this prior experience. Both Mark and Michael have written extensively about queer history and culture in the United States. And though Halloween has Celtic origins, there's no other place in the world that does Halloween quite like we do in the US. Let's start by looking more at that idea of the carnivalesque. Here's Michael. You know, normally it is not okay to go to people's houses and say, if you don't give me Kennedy, I will do something mean to you then as a complete violation of the social order. If you go to medieval Europe, they're actually a series of days that are called days of misrule, which means that the society has turned upside down. Right, So we see them today with like Marti Ground, where where you actually have three or four days of just riot is fun, right, And I really see Halloween as one of these days of misrule, right, where in fact anything goes and it allows people to act out all of their fantasies. So if you go back to say New York, there are actually um balls around twice a year, both on not a surprise April Fool's Day, right, which is that you can fool people, which is a term of of misrule, and on around Halloween that we're called the bose Arts Ball. And you know, they weren't specifically queer, although they were certainly queer, and they attracted many queer queer people, right, and again they were places for people to come and dress up and get drunk. Right. Certainly, if if you look at San Francisco, which has had a Halloween parade from you know, decades and decades now and now apparently has gotten sort of out of control because it's filled with heterosexuals from the rest of the Bay Area. Right. I think in some way we're all sort of childlike in the sense that we can't wait to get away with something, right the way that the way that the child can't wait till like grab that extra cookie or to go outside and scream. I think that the urge, the urge to to act out right, the urge to take control of our own lives and to disobey, right, I mean miss The term misrule comes from, you know, not following the rules. So I think that for queer adults, Halloween is has has been historically right a time when they can do this, And of course it's a about not getting arrested, right, But it's also about communities coming together...

...and and frolicking in public, right, I mean. George Chauncy in his book Gay New York talks about that the gay community was founded in public because if you own you if you own your own house, you could have gay men over for dinner. But nobody knew it. It was private. It's only by being the public can we have a community. Is it possible that a single day of misrule can offer communities a valuable opportunity to find each other, or does that single day just represent a society that's too rigid in general? Here's mark what does it mean to be able to transgress but only one day or transgress only temporarily? And some argue that it is really a space and an opening for challenging the social order. Others say that it's kind of can act as a safety valve um And critics would say, well, if you have one day, that means you don't have three d four days and if it's acting as a safety valve so that kind of anybody can do it on one day as long as everybody knows that on the next day it's not going to be allowed and we're going to get back to the regular social order, um, you know, then then that's how it can be permitted. So that's a much more critical take I think on what all of this means, um, But I think both things can be true. Right. It can provide a space and opportunity for um, the affirmation or the celebration of transgression. But we also shouldn't overstate what it means and it's significance because uh, if it if we're singling out the one night or the one holiday. Then it speaks to how much more uh distance there is to travel to to achieve uh the acceptance and the celebration of those transgressions. Every minute, every hour, every day. There are traditions in virtually all cultures where genders are inverted or classes are inverted. The poor, you know, uh having uh say, a day a year where they can um provoke and tease and reverse the social order in relation to the rich. So on that level, I think as long as as long as Halloween has been a holiday of transgression where people get to play roles that they don't usually roll, or get to dress up in customs that are not their everyday clothing, I think that that means that that Halloween has been been been queer in in that broad sense for a really long time. And I think we have plenty of evidence that that tradition um uh you know, stretches back decades. And then even in the more narrow sense of queer identified people uh seeing in Halloween an opportunity to to transgress gender transgress, sexuality, transgress the boundaries between the private and the public. Uh. And so it might man of fest in just uh the way people would dress up for Halloween. But it also would certainly manifest itself in early gay bars, early gay restaurants and clubs, in drag, queen performances, uh, in all of those kinds of venues that were key components of the of early LGBT community formation in the first half of the twentieth century and then into the mid twentieth century. In his research for his first book on Philadelphia, Mark actually uncovered a very special queer Halloween tradition that lived and died almost a decade before Stonewall. Story after story, people remember that there was a tradition in Philadelphia. Some people referred to it as bitches Christmas, and that was Halloween. And the first set of stories that I heard basically involved a series of gay bars in what we now call the gayborhood and Philadelphia centered on...

...thirteenth and Locust Street, and UH there would be drag performances, drag contests UH inside the bars, and then a kind of promenade from one bar to the next. And there were there were a dozen or two dozen bars within a few blocks UH, and UH spectators would gather to see uh the drags or the Halloween costumed folks, um you know, go from bar to bar, So there was one thing going on inside the bars, and then another thing with with more straight spectators outside the bars. According to the stories Mark collected, there would be anywhere from fifty to two people in drag parading down the street for Halloween. People talked about thousands of spectators. People would um you know, bring in their lawn chairs and and you know, in Philadelphia had a distinct tradition of these kinds of parades. Then, because of knowing how racially segregated Philadelphia was, I began to hear stories about a separate um parade or promenade that happened around a handful of gay bars centered on South Street, which is not actually all that far away from Locust Street, but um but was demographically, socio economically, racially quite different, and the bars were different, um but you know, but a kind of parallel event uh featuring primarily African American um uh drags again going from bar to bar, with events inside the bars and then events outside the bar. When you talk about these parades and the number of like participants and the people spectating, who were the types of people that watched? I think it really was pretty broad based. So from the accounts that I was able to get, uh people, the the LGBT people I interviewed thought that the spectators included both LGBT people and straight people bowl and it was just that, um, we might kind of understand why LGBT people would go um. And of course, among some of the putitively straight people there, we can guess that there were people who were quietly um wishing that you know, they could express their secret gendered and sexual desires as well. But by all accounts there also were genuinely straight people who just enjoyed the spectacle. And you know, we can just think about the way through the twentieth century, drag performances often had uh, you know, large straight audiences right that people could appreciate, uh, the entertainment value, have fun. Um. Sometimes it could be a form of slumming, but but in other contexts it could be just genuine, genuine appreciation for cultural diversity, uh and gender diversity and sexual diversity. How did that, I guess we're gonna say that that's sort of like an embracing of queer culture. But for that specific event, how did that contrast with like the typical day to day interactions between queer residents in Philadelphia and straight residents or quickness in public I suppose is really yeah, it's a good question because there is a risk in what I'm suggesting of thinking leading leading to the conclusion that everything was hunky dorry and there was an amazing level of acceptance, and I don't want to create that impression at all. Uh, it really was kind of an exceptional day in that sense. And by all accounts, LGBT people who were open, you know, regularly routinely experienced anti queer violence, and that could come from families, It could come from neighbors, co workers, and then just strangers on the street. So many of the people that I interviewed in many and men, there are many accounts of um, you know, anti queer violence, abuse, discrimination, harassment, and that could come from all sorts of people.

But it also and sadly frequently came from the police and from people in political authority. Ultimately, this queer Halloween tradition didn't survive the nineteen sixties, and though it's hard to know what happened exactly, both police and political authorities were already notorious for stamping out all things queer. So the first Philadelphia gay activist group that I was able to identify UH formed in nineteen sixty and at the very first meeting, this was basically meant to be a branch of the National homophile movement UH, the police raided the meeting, which had eighty four people at a suburban home outside of Philadelphia, and the police basically took everybody in and held a couple of the leaders overnight. So Philadelphia LGBT activism began in this really unusual way, with this immediate crackdown on the movement, and we don't have a lot of evidence for that kind of episode happening UH in other places. So that is another kind of illustration of just how repress of the environment could be. It wasn't long after that raid that police also put an end to Bitches Christmas. I've seen kind of conflicting accounts of whether it fell apart in sixty one or sixty two or sixty three, It was right around there. The accounts seemed to converge around two UM. Some of the accounts that I encountered said that UH that violence had erupted the prior year UM, where some spectators began being aggressively physical, um drunk. Uh, not the whole evening, but towards you know, the particularly early morning hours. UM. And that the police led by at the time, Captain Frank Rizzo. He later became Mayor of Philadelphia, but he was kind of a notorious police captain in the center city area. Uh. That he ruled that um that bars would be denied their licenses if they permitted uh female and personation. I think that was the lingo of the day. And and so most of the bars complied, and it really kind of crushed the tradition. Interestingly, Mark says. Nineteen sixty two was also the year that Greater Philadelphia magazine published a groundbreaking expose called The Furtive Fraternity, all about the city's gay underworld. And while it was anti gay in many respects, it also was really almost unprecedented in depth look at an urban gay world, uh and sympathetic in many respects. Parts of it covered the new activist movement, but other parts of it were more about bar life and community life. UH. And UH that really uh created a new level of visibility for the community. Queer activism was picking up momentum substantially in the nineteen sixties, not just in Philadelphia but all over the US. And it really makes you wonder was police Chief Rizzo's crackdown on lloween part of a larger effort to kill gay activism. It's a good question, and uh, it's definitely worth thinking about. And I guess I'm hesitant to go entirely with that theory because the movement in sixties sixty one sixty two was was quite small. It didn't it involved only a few dozen people. But where I think you're onto something is there. Separate from that organizing effort, there was a rising visibility of gay life gay culture in Center City that was developing in the nineteen fifties and the early nineteen sixties. So um Rizzo one of the one of the ways he became famous was by cracking down on the city's coffee houses in the late fifties and um they were basically Philadelphia's version of the Beat generation. Poets and chess playing, um people, interracial couples, people into pot um you know, would gather in a half a dozen coffee houses and sometimes listen to poetry, list into jazz. Well.

One of them was gay owned um and featured a large gay clientele, and Frank Rizzo, as a police captain, went after that coffeehouse in particular, uh, and ended up closing it down. And that was a really important episode. All the biographies of Rizzo used that as an episode where he began to kind of ride the law and order, um, you know, train to you know, to ultimately become mayor of the city. And so if we see the gay coffeehouse as an expression of this emerging gay culture and gay community, right then uh, and we see the crackdown, you know, the series of crackdowns, whether it's the gay political meeting or the gay oriented coffeehouse or queer Halloween, right. Uh. You know, it does suggest that, um, that the police were seeing this newly developing community as an important threat. And you know, in a great last laugh of that story is that the guy who owned the coffeehouse that was the target of Rizzo and fifty nine he ended up becoming a major real estate developer and owner in Philadelphia. Decades later, he's given millions and millions of dollars in Philadelphia to LGBT causes. Uh. And I think in some respects he feels he's still alive. He feels like he's had the last laugh he has. We're going to take a quick break, but when we come back, we'll take a deeper look into the enduring connection between drag and Halloween with help from the one and only Tammy Brown. Plus we'll talk about what we can do to keep Halloween queer. Stay tuned, Welcome back to this very special Halloween episode of Pride. Today, we're looking at the queer history of Halloween in the US and it's under niable connection to drag And who better to talk about dragon Halloween than Tammy Brown? Well, how do you folks? This is Tammy Brown with an I em know him for being on RuPaul's Drag Race Season one and All Stars Season one. That's right here, I am Seinfeld delivered with my very own Halloween spectacular special that will be on Out TV and I believe Fruit TV in the UK. We'll talk more about Tammy Spectacular in a little while, but first I wanted to know about her very first Halloween in drag hers Halloween and Drag was probably in UM ninety nine s five. Do you remember what you went as? Who I went as? I went as my own dress up in drag as a kid. I wanted to drag dress up in drag. So I went and drag and how did cute you know, cute vintage dress and a bob wig and wanted to be a Smeralda. Before Tammy Brown, there was Esmeralda. But even before Esmeralda, there was is the Witch. There used to be this beautiful fabric that a friend of mine had. This is in the valley. There is a valley in Texas and um well, the Rosemary. She was a designer at the time, boutique designer, and she had this beautiful fabric that was a ladybug fabric and the ladybugs were in several different colors. There was green ones, red ones, and yellow ones. And I used to think to myself, now that is a really cool fabric, and I would like to make myself a witch costume, hats and all. And you see, when I was a kid, I had a very big troubled childhood because of my my father going in and on a gel all the time. They separated once my sister and I from from my mother because of the grandparents wanted us to me to go live in a more wholesome home. Because my mom was a single mom, which was a horrible time. So I went to live in my cousin's house, where I was abused by my cousin um physically, um, and he almost killed me once. But anyhow, so that Halloween when I was there, but I was there for a short time, Thank god, my mom came and got me.

I hope these are good answers now and then so, um, I wanted to do which that Halloween, but they insisted, being good Christians, that I couldn't be a witch, that I had to be a warlock. So that Halloween they dressed me up as a robot and I said that I was a robot, which the whole night a robot, which I mean, who the funk wants to be a warlock? No one? Yeah, people do out there, you know, No sure, but a witch is fabulous and a warlock is like what they tell little boys. Yeah, you can't be a witch because of gender stereotypes. Yeah. Absolutely. So you made your own costume, do you? Obviously you weren't Tammy Brown, as you didn't go as Tammy Brown as as a kid. What could you tell me about your first Halloween as Tammy Brown? My first Halloween is Tammy Brown? Um, that was until later in the in the in the two thousand's because Tammy Brown was forced upon me because I grew up in South Texas, and I don't know if you know that in the South, you the pageant scene is very strong. And so I was lucky enough to um. Once I turned eighteen, I was still in high school. Um, I was held back here or whatever. So I was still in high school at eighteen, and then UM, I went to I went to the nightclub because you can go to the nightclubs at eighteen here in Texas, and I started pursuing my drag career. Then that was my idea, and they said I have to have a drag name, and so I came up with this. I was like, well, you know, first of all, um, like I said that, I called myself a robot, which that whole night, I was very adamant, very strong willed, and I said, well, you know there's RuPaul is Rue Paul, and you know Chad Michaels are these certain characters are themselves and Jimmy James are all these other people are themselves. That's their stage name. I was going to be g s as it is a derivative of Tina Turners what she gets what you see, so to speak. So I created my own Keith glench Well Glenn Schubert, which I went by and I thought Glenn SCHARERT would be a great name. Uh you know, it's very Hollywood name, old Hollywood and would really work. But of course now they said you have to have a drag name. So I came up with Tammy Brown, which is with an I E with an i e. And there have a whole backup to that story. You know, it's such a different story that you hear someone how they came to their name. It was almost like kind of assigned and then embraced in this. I guess it's is an unconventional way. When you started doing drag, did you moving into creating your own spectacular and creating music like Suth Sarah? Was Halloween always kind of intrinsically in your brand, the spooky feelings, I guess, themes, oh, spooky feelings like serial killers and stuff like that. I preferred more of Autumn leaves kind of a sort of a Halloween personally. You know, I'm not really into the whole gore. I think there's a fine there's two ways. There's you. You can have the fall aspect of it, or you can have even there's even the Day of the Dead or the Mexican which was brought up with that as well as a child, because I did live in Mexico, so I did go to pot spat On each wokon and we used to go there and celebrate. You know, the war is fun and all that, um, But for me it was a little bit scary um. But I do like to play with the different costuming and stuff like that. For Tammy, Halloween is another opportunity to perform and entertain well, you know, for drag queens, club kids or whatever costume people. It's sort of an amateur holiday, to be honest with you. For a lot of us, sometimes it is sort of an amateur holiday because then you've got all your novice queens that come out and gives birth to them the most wonderful drag queens in the future, so to speak. Whatever. But or really lights that fire. But I just think it's a fun thing, and I think people like the aspect of being able to dress up in the whole fantasy of it. And maybe it's sort of this being able to be wicked and have some fun. That's so interesting what you just said about um kind of people coming doing Halloween in drag as like their first step in and Halloween is like this playground where people maybe dabble with drag and maybe continue or maybe don't. But that's that's interesting that it's kind of like a I guess I'm sure there's a lot of drag queens who got their first time on Halloween, probably because...

...they got confident, like I'm gonna go and drag. It's Halloween, right. But I've seen some people crawling down the boulevard in West Hollywood there on Santa Mona because the Santa Monica, because they wore those high heels and they're such you know. I've seen people crawling upstairs because they were in such pain, you know, are falling on their face. You're like, that takes a professional, but you know, if it happens, I mean, it's gonna happen. Sometimes costumes are too tight. You can wear any kind of custume and it gets comfortable, you know what I mean. Yeah, I feel like Halloween really is intrinsically it is very much part of drag culture because a lot of people are born I guess you would say that that day has drag queens, but also very much part of your performance and your characters. So tell me about your spook Tacular. I'd love to know what inspired you to do it and kind of how it all came about. I worked with John Mark is my creative director, so speaking director of the Browns and different things, and he helps me. We get together and we storyboard these different ideas, like we want to do a series of seasonal specials. The next one I would like to do is in Valentine's one, and then I would also like to do eventually probably put the Nail in the coffin, though would be an Easter one which would be the drag. I will drag the nail in the coffin. But the inspiration was because I had Pumpkin Blaster and I always have these different ideas of what Halloween could be in the different fun we can have with it, and I wanted to present something like that as a seasonal special, and we seem to get a lot of green lights when it comes to seasonal specials. Season special and then to have Kelly Mantles join us on that, Kylie so neat um, we have the the the Sugar Baker Twins from Camp When a Kiki they joined us on there, and we have some other comedians, artists and that are on their April carry On so's it's it's a really fun mixed bag that we have and then we they we have the Soothsayer is a single that I had been working on a while back with Marcoholic and my creative partner Rob Rosso, who's been writing with me and for me for years, such hits as Clam Happy, Chokaboo, Coo, you Love Pinata and some of the other ones like You're in My Blood and things like that. But we wrote Soothsayer a while ago and then um, we've worked with Marcoholic on that, and then I did Pumpkin Blaster, which was one of my catchphrases because I will go around saying these fun catch wacky do catch phrases and pumpkin Blaster was one of them. So we wrote that into a song. It was a pumpkin blaster. What's the inspiration, Well, you know, use your imagination. That's what it's there for. If you want to think about what a pumpkin blaster is, what's a rock hard slammer up for interpretation? To the listeners. You better believe it. You know, a little little something for them to think about. You know, Pumpkin Blaster, You're the master. Do it, do it, do it faster. I call him pumping blastera blast. Uh. You can watch Tammy Brown's Halloween Spectacular on out TV now until Halloween. So get your broomsticks and less ride, baby, it would be a crime. Pat Frankenstein, this design Daddy, were Wolves, Pumping Blast, You'll the master. If we've learned anything today, it's that Halloween is powerful. It's full of potential for experimentation and entertainment, and even though it's been heavily commercialized like any other holiday, it's important we remember and treasure it's transgressive past. Here's Michael Bronsky. I...

...was just in the target by my house and there were racks and racks of pre made cost students, all of which were based on Disney characters. Clearly, I know we all loved Hocus Focus and I just watched Hocus Pocus to yesterday, which was pretty good, not quite as good as one, but it was pretty good. But there's a way in which Halloween has been domesticated, and I would love to see us go back to the more original intentiment, which is more of an anarchistic mode of just both inventing or reinventing yourself as a different character and living in a different world. Right, And I certainly think that what i'd heard in the fifties in the sixties, right that it was the one day when you could dress up and not be arrested. The reality is that is that gay men and lesbians and trans people and bisexuals um in many, many ways have to dress up in the everyday world in order to pass, in order to be more even if they're out to be more presentably out right, to actually navigate the homophobia that exists through out with the world. But this country right now, and I think that Halloween really gives gives us a time to sort of celebrate our incredible ability to recreate and reinvent ourselves and be incredibly imaginative about it. And hopefully not that they pre bought Disney Princess costume. But that's not to say that all the commodification around Halloween is the enemy, and living in the United States, it's borderline impossible to avoid getting swept up in it. I think the point is to act we find ways to it, to enjoy this in a parallel way and along with the commodification, you know, I mean, I do think that Halloween, in the past probably thirty years, has become And we see this in the size that of the Halloween parade and Gunde Village of New York, in the size of the parade in San Francisco. Right, there is something intrinsic about the very notion of what Halloween allows that everybody knows that they want on the level. But I was thinking. I was one years ago in a panel at the Kennedy School at Harvard Gay Politics, and I was the moderator, and there was a man from the log Cabin group and he said, I don't know why we're even here. Gay people are just like straight people. And I said, you know, I as moderator, I don't want to have a lot of opinions here, but I have to agree with him completely. Gay people are just like straight people. It's just that straight people lie about who they are. And when you see, you know, when you see literally thousands of adults either semi dressed up or very dressed up taking their kids to essentially a queer parade in San Francisco or the Grantage Village. That's extremely liberating for them and probably something that they don't do, they don't allow themselves to do every day. You know, in some way the role of society is too, of culture is to actually force children into becoming responsible adults, much to their differment. I think in any cases, you know, and Halloween is one of those situations where we just allow kids to do whatever they want and adults, right, And I think that I think that it's not a mistake or not an error, right that in fact, queer people have owed and told that there are essentially children that I mature. Their sexuality is not not a mature sexuality that they're acting out all the time, right, And and in some ways that's true, and that's the best part of childhood, which is about Hollyween speaks to. So do you think it's then important to protect Halloween as sort of a queer holiday or gay Christmas? Yes? I think. Um, I think it's incumbent up on us to actually avoid the commodification of Halloween. And I'm not sure how to do that, right. I mean, you could actually make your own costumes. You cannot buy the prefab costumes you could, you know, maybe it means um in New York in the late eighties, the group when the group Queer Queer...

Nations started, right, they actually did these these invasion of straight dating bars and just showed up and began kissing. You know. Maybe to reclaim Halloween, we have to do what you know, sort of vigilante activities and and sort of you know, queers invading shopping centers on Halloween and and turning it all into a festival. But I think it's important to to understand the queer roots of Halloween and what it means and not not fall into we're going to go to a party, you know, and we're funny had to go to a restaurant. So in some ways there's like this this opportunity for activism within Halloween celebrations, probably particularly in communities that don't have as robust of a queer presence all the time, right like New York and and San Francisco and big cities. Um, So there would you say there is an opportunity there for people you know, living in small towns or smaller cities obviously staying safe to kind of represent their community specifically during that time and on that day, And yes, I think, I mean, I think part of the process that has to happen, right, is the process has to be to audibly reclaim Halloween and say this is a queer holiday and maybe give a little bit of the history about that. But but also to really really think about what it means, you know, to act out in various ways, you know, I mean act up was called to act up, which is very important during the AIDS epidemic, but I think acting out in a more fun way is as important. Also. It'll be very curious right to see in I don't know, ten more years the result of all these uh, And I'm seeing some of it now with my students, right, students who were actually brought up in schools with G s A S you know, I mean I haven't who's like older sister was in the G S A when she was in third grade. So even though she couldn't be in the G S A N till she was in middle school or in high school, she actually knew about it, right, So the question is gonna be I mean, young people these days are brought up for many, many more years in openly accepting and queer cultures than people twenty years ago. Here's Mark Stein. I think the activists that I study from the fifties, sixties and seventies, I'm always just amazed at how strategic they were, how fun and entertaining they could be, even while being deadly serious. And so, uh I think Halloween just lends itself to the idea of creative performative protest, and um, I wish we would see more of that in today's climate. I think the the era of creative queer protest associated with the Stone Wall Rebellion definitely revived in the second half of the eighties when I think AIDS activism, you know, really returned to those traditions with a series of incredibly creative, performatively effective protests and demonstrations. And we've seen that, you know, occasionally erupt um subsequently, but not in not in the same sustained ways that I think I I see in uh say, late sixties, early seventies and then in the in the late eighties. But I think it would be a great idea to use Halloween as a as a moment to uh reinvigorate and uh enlive in those traditions. Do you celebrate Halloween yourself and if so, how will you celebrate this year? It's funny that you should ask. I. So, I live in the Mission and very near the Castro in San Francisco with my with my partner, Orree, and we've long had we We agree on pretty much everything, but we don't agree about Halloween. He always explains to me he did not grow up in Cuba with with really strong Halloween traditions or traditions that really resembled at what I...

...experienced as a kid in suburban New York. Uh. So, um, we shared a home for years in Maine, that's where he taught, and so I would love, uh, you know, having candy for kids, neighborhood kids, and in that neighborhood, which was overwhelmingly straight. I loved that, uh, the neighborhood kids would come to our door and see these two gay men, because I would insist that my my partner joined me, you know, handing out um candies. We would be dancing in the kitchen as we often did, and just enjoying dinner and and and opened the door. So even in that kind of rural, mainstream context, for years we we enjoyed that kind of um celebration of Halloween. It wasn't going to a gay club and enjoying, you know, a drag show, but it was you know, it's kind of queerness in it was our queer Halloween in in a quiet corner of rural America. Um you know. Since we've moved to San Francisco, it's it's definitely different. And we happen to live in a you know, in a townhouse development where nobody rings the bell and nobody comes to our door. So, you know, so we haven't been able to replicate that, uh ironically because now you know, we're in one of the country's major gay mechas, but we don't have we don't have gay revelers coming to the door. But we do enjoy the you know, the street life um uh in and around Halloween, because I have to say, at least in our neighborhood, it's not just a one day event, it's a multi day experience. I think one could argue that to game in handing out candy and a predominantly cis gender and heteronormative neighborhood is activism. So I think that answers our question. Yeah, absolutely, Happy Halloween everyone, If you have a great story to tell about your first Halloween and drag. Be sure to email us at Pride at strawhot media dot com. Pride is a production of straw Hut Media. If you like the show, please leave us a rating and a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, wherever you listen to podcasts. Then follow us on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and snapchat at Pride and tune in weekly for more episodes. Be sure to share this episode with your friends and subscribe for more stories from amazing queer people. If you'd like to connect with me, you can follow me everywhere at Levi Chambers. Pride is produced by me Levi Chambers, Maggie Bowls, Ryan Tillotson, and Brandon Marlow. This episode was written by Maggie Bowls and edited by Daniel Ferrara. It's it's definitely treats instead of tricks this year, or maybe there's a couple of tricks and a lot of treats. Well. I hope if they get a trick that they don't get shit on.

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